Pope Benedict XVI: a brave gesture that challenges tradition
Giancarlo Bosetti 14 February 2013

Research is pointless since this was a totally different event, set in times in which political events mingled in a confused manner with choices made by the Church and for a few months brought to the Seat of Peter (not in Rome) a man known for his naivety and lack of preparation, who did not speak Latin, still now considered a serious defect for a cardinal but one that at the time meant illiteracy. While according to Dante Pope Celestine’s resignation was branded a sign of “cowardice”, is it correct now to speak of “bravery”? I think it is, specifically because this choice has been made by a pontiff with a background such as that of Joseph Ratzinger, a theologian who based all his teachings on the utmost rigour, first as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and then as Pope. This decision sets a precedent that changes the history of the papacy rendering it more humbly closer to the human condition.

This choice “breaks” with a tradition and therefore “breaks” a continuity that was at the centre of the history of this pope, who has shown he is fully aware of the contradiction to which he has exposed himself as well as its possible consequences. It is obvious that only serious and unbearable physical conditions can have led him to make a choice that deserves great respect. His predecessor chose to die after a long illness, publicly exposing to the media, the faithful, to the whole world, the progression of his illness, the deterioration of his body, his agony and his death. There was no censorship of his medical condition. This too was a brave gesture, challenging tradition in a different way.

Pope John Paul II was the first pope of the satellite TV era and from the very beginning, with full awareness, entrusted evangelization to the media of the global village, theorized by McLuhan who had converted to Catholicism. He decided to end his life hiding nothing from the public. Pope Benedict XVI has always trusted the media less than John Paul II, since it did not improve his image when he was physically still strong and would not help him in an illness about which there is not yet any confirmed information.

Benedict XVI’s “courage” is therefore of a different kind and must have cost him a great deal. One is certain that, following the shocking announcement, aware of the depth of his doctrinal knowledge and the importance he has always given to justifying every previous decision, he must have posed himself the problem of the questions his resignation would pose. One should therefore expect over the coming days a theological explanation for his decision to resign, and explanation that will probably try and reduce an impact that has in many ways been subversive.

Translation by Francesca Simmons



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